Marketing Manager, Brand Strategist, Social Media Director
Welcome to foglyte!
Here you'll find a collection of my thoughts and observations on marketing strategies, social media, community building, and branding. Hope you find something worth your time here. Cheers!
“Open war is upon you, whether you’d risk it or not.” - Aragorn to King Theoden, Lord of the Rings
I’m not going to tell you that a crucial shift is coming in business. I’m not going to tell you that, simply because it’s already happened. We’re already in the midst of the Content War, and if your business hasn’t taken steps to mobilize, you’re potentially losing ground to your competition already. Businesses of all kinds are producing content at an astonishing rate, and it’s making a difference for those who do it right. The good news? It’s not too late to take up arms.
I’m not going to get too in-depth on what qualifies as ‘content’, or more appropriately, ‘good content’. For the best resource on this, check out the awesome book “Content Rules” by C.C Chapman and Ann Handley. Suffice to say that whatever your content consists of, whether it be articles, images, videos, or a combination of all three, the overarching qualifier necessary to register as ‘good content’ is VALUE. Whatever you produce for your audience, it’s got to be valuable.
Nobody builds authority, expertise, or trust with garbage content. Delivering value to your audience is the only way to gain ground in the Content War.
Time to get deeper in to what factors impact the success of your team, and are necessary to actually deliver that value to your audience. How does one business gain an advantage over their competition in the Content War? By being superior across a variety of measures, none of which have anything to do with having the deepest pockets.
You’ll be the most effective in the Content War if you have:
Superior Intel - Don’t confuse intelligence with data. Raw numbers are useless without context and interpretation. First, look where the action is happening and examine the types of content that are generating action and engagement. Understand what your audience craves for content, and then understand why they crave it. Ask yourself “What is it about that piece of content that delivers value for them?” Look, listen, and figure out what you can give that they want. This will give you a purpose for your content.
Superior Supply Chain - How do you get the content from the idea stage to being in front of your audience in the best possible way? Who in your organization is the best person(s) to provide the raw materials you need to create your audience’s desired content? Who can take that raw material and turn it in to a usable product? Who is the best person to deliver the content in a timely manner in the right location? These all may be the same person, or all different people. Identify the best team to have in place to take content from concept to reality and deliver it.
Superior Training - What tools will you use? What are the intricacies of navigating through the necessary networks to reach your audience? Squeezing the most from the tools you have available helps you maximize the impact of your content. Your team should be trained on the ins-and-outs of whatever platforms and tools you’re using to create, distribute, and monitor your content.
Superior Tactics - You know what kinds of content to make. You know who the best people are to help make that content. And you know how and where to post it. The next question is WHEN to post it. The brilliant Gary Vaynerchuk once said that content is one thing, but CONTEXT is truly where the power comes from. Creating the greatest content the world has ever seen is all for naught if it has no context. This article might as well be called the “Relevance War”, because that’s really where we are headed. Posting the right stuff at the right time is how you become the most relevant. Be tactical about what you post, when you post it, and where.
Superior Leadership - Leadership matters, not at just the level of the Generals and Admirals, but at the Squad Leader level. Bring everyone in the loop on what your objectives are in the Content War. Allow them to be flexible, to adapt to changing battle conditions. Never stop learning. Never stop pushing. Having superior leadership gives clarity of purpose across all levels.
Finally, be aware that involvement in the Content War is not optional. The magnificent quote at the beginning of this article sums it up quite nicely. "Open war is upon you, whether you’d risk it or not." While a business may elect not to create, this does not exclude that business from being compared to all the others who do. In a world full of conquerors, as the world of business truly is, how long will a business last if they stand idly by? Good content is authority, expertise, trust, and visibility. Good content is value, not just for your customers, but for your business. Good content is relevance.
Time to take up arms, and join the battle.
I take branding really seriously. It matters. And not just for the company in question, but for everyone connected to it. Customers, distributors, partners, suppliers, etc. And what I see happening to the great city of Toronto is one of the most tragic examples of unjustified brand damage in recent memory.
There’s no reason for Toronto’s brand to be going through what it currently is, and I think that this is due partially to the parties involved not truly realizing the long-reaching effects this could have on the city as a whole.
For example, let’s take a quick look at what happens when the CEO of a major corporation goes off and makes an utter mockery of a once-proud brand. Simply look at what’s happened to brands like Lululemon, Abercrombie & Fitch, Kenneth Cole, and the likes simply due to some callous and ignorant comments made by their CEO’s. Their brand value has taken a major hit, and one could argue strongly that their position in the mind of their customers and in the marketplace may never be what it once was. Competitors with stronger, cleaner, more honest brands start looking really good to your customers.
What if that happens to the largest city in Canada? How will this stigma of the hot-headed crack-smoking mayor in a constant state of denial label Toronto to the rest of the world?
What will be the economic impacts? Will investments in business and infrastructure be scrutinized more closely before commitments are made? Will this result in businesses considering alternatives with renewed interest? There are factors at play here that go far beyond just ‘the mayor’.
Right now, Toronto is a joke worldwide. It was funny for a while, then it got sad, then funny again, and now it’s truly distressing. And it won’t be something that is forgotten quickly. A city’s leadership matters just the same as a business’ leadership matters. Every brand has a figurehead, for better or worse. They embody the brand. If they aren’t aligned, there are consequences.
He needs to go, if for no other reason than Toronto’s brand can’t afford him. The city needs a leader reflective of the true nature of the city, and Ford is not that leader. He needs help, that much is certain. And at this point, so does Toronto.
The great folks over at Search Engine Land created this brilliant infographic full of handy SEO information.
From the Search Engine Land post:
"Search engine optimization — SEO — may seem like alchemy to the uninitiated. But there is a science to it. Search engines reward pages with the right combination of ranking factors, or “signals.” SEO is about ensuring your content generates the right type of signals.
Our chart below summarizes the major factors to focus on for search engine ranking success (and thanks to Column Five Media, for the infographic design).”
Download PDF of chart here: http://searchengineland.com/seotable/download-periodic-table-of-seo
Social Slam 2013 has concluded, and that makes me sad. However, Social Slam 2013 was awesome, and that makes me happy. The content was brilliant, the speakers were tremendous, and the people were the best. Social Slam is without a doubt, a must-attend event for ANYONE working with digital tools, professionally or personally, to connect and communicate.
Scanning back through the countless tweets sent out during the event, there’s so much gold it’s clear that everyone walked away from the event energized and excited to get to work using new techniques and approaches to the digital space. Here is but a handful of the great content that was shared during Social Slam, but for those craving more, simply search for the #soslam hashtag on Twitter and immerse yourself!
"You’re not just competing with the guy down the street. You’re competing globally." - @jeffbullas
My take: Jeff’s own presence at Social Slam after over 40hrs of exhaustive delay-ridden travel time reminds us all that there are no borders in social media. Forget about competing locally, and be awesome worldwide.
"Social levels the playing field for introverts and extroverts." - @jeffbullas
My take: Your content isn’t judged based on how you act at cocktail parties. It’s judged based on its value. By creating great content, even the most meek and mild of us can become social superstars.
"Use your social media to tell your whole story: employees, community, environment." @xanpearson
My take: Your story is not contained within your logo, your mission statement, or your brochure. It’s contained within the actions of every single one of your employees, customers, and partners. Use the power of social to share the entirety of your brand.
"Blog comments come from emotional reactions to your content. They need to WANT to share their take on your content." - @dinodogan
My take: Dino reminds us that comments don’t appear simply because you wrote something. They appear because something ‘sparked’ inside the reader. An emotional impact triggers the desire to comment. Want comments? Write something that creates that ‘spark’.
"Community is at the heart of everything we do." - @gabriellenyc
My take: Wow! What an INCREDIBLE talk this was. Gabrielle captivated the entire audience with her amazing stories and reminds us all that everything we do connects us to other people. Everyone we meet, shake hands with, share a laugh with, share a moment of sadness or of joy with, inevitably becomes part of our personal community. Social media amplifies this and makes our communities grow stronger, larger, and faster, stretching across the globe.
"You can’t teach how to blog unless you blog. You can’t teach Twitter if you don’t use Twitter." - @markwschaefer
My take: In other words, if you want to be a great communicator, then you need to COMMUNICATE. Invest the time in learning the tools, honing your voice, and appreciating your audience. Becoming great in social takes time, and takes practise.
"Common sense is strangely uncommon most of the time." @JeffBullas
My take: Think before you do. Read before you post. Choose your words wisely. Jeff’s statement is deceptively simple, yet speaks volumes. Many of those using social do so with very little forethought. Be smart about how you use social media, use care and caution, and pay attention to the perceptions of your audience. It matters.
"Automation isn’t evil. Use it right & save time. You can’t automate & then bail on your audience." - @ChrisQueso
My take: Social media is not a ‘set it and forget it’ kind of media. It’s real-time, and is fuelled by interactivity and engagement. Using automation for certain repetitive tasks can be a huge time saver for many of us, but it does not mean that your social networks are now self-sustaining. It needs to have your personal interaction and attention, otherwise you’re just advertising.
"If all you’re doing is sharing mediocre content, you’re amplifying the suck." - @jenkaneco
My take: ‘Meh’ content does not get retweeted. It does not get liked. It certainly doesn’t get commented on. Don’t just post for the sake of posting. Post because you’ve got something that is bursting at the seams with awesome. Deliver value, all the time, or your brand will be one big ‘meh’.
"It’s hard not to like someone once you know their story. - Mr. Rogers" - @ducttape
My take: Your story is your brand. Who you are, what you’re all about, what you do and why you do it. This is why people like you, this is why people like your company. Don’t seal up your story away from your community. Share it & be proud of it. Your community isn’t just listening to your story, it is an integral part of it.
In addition to being an event overflowing with great content, it was also one of the greatest networking events I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending. Speakers did not run back to their hotel rooms or to the airport after their time on stage had concluded. They became part of the crowd, attending other sessions, and talking with everyone they could find. I was absolutely honoured to personally meet many of the brilliant headliners, had some truly brilliant conversations, and lots of fun hanging out at the pubs!
(So glad I got a chance to hang out with so many brilliant people, like Jeff Bullas & Gabrielle Laine Peters!)
My most profound thanks to Mark Schaefer for making this an incredibly valuable event that will undoubtedly influence attendees to go out to their various corners of the world and utilize the awesome lessons that were learned, and share these lessons with their own communities. I know that I’m already looking forward to Social Slam 2014!
A well maintained social media presence is like a fine wine; it develops more character as it ages. As you invest more time in to social media, joining additional networks and using new tools, your presence gains different characteristics that it did not have before. However, just as certain wine characteristics mesh well together, others simply do not. Certain wines will pair well with certain foods and enhance the experience, while others conflict and compete. So it is with different social networks. Some are natural fits, enhancing each other and creating synergy. Others are so vastly different in scope and purpose that using them together can actually weaken the total effort.
So how do you know which networks jive well together, and which just don’t? Well, I reached out to several brilliant professionals whose experiences in social media give them a unique perspective on which networks work great together. They are, for all intents and purposes, Social Media Sommeliers, pairing different networks together to create an experience greater than the sum of its parts. So, what networks do they believe hold the greatest power for synergy?
Here’s what Ric Dragon http://twitter.com/ricdragon had to say:
“I’m of the mind that the Twitter/G+ combo is killer. G+ is more open than FB, and it’s easier to share blog-type posts publicly. Twitter, of course, is the place for garnering those weak-link connections – those people with whom you share an affinity. So Twitter makes the connection, and G+ allows you to share deeper content with those new connections.”
Smart stuff, to be sure. And after speaking with multiple other professionals, and with so many different networks out there to choose from, it became quite clear that everyone would have a different approach tailored to their individual style, fitting with their unique approach to their industry.
I asked this extremely savvy group of Marketing/PR/Social pros to look at this concept from two different angles:
1) Which two social networks do you feel are most complementary, and why?
2) Which two social networks do you feel have the biggest disconnect, and why?
Here’s what they had to say:
Mark Schaefer - http://twitter.com/markwschaefer
"The biggest synergy that I see is between Blogging and Twitter. Building a Twitter audience is an effective way to build an audience for your blog. A tweet is like the movie trailer for the movie! They fit like a hand in a glove.
As I see it, the biggest disconnect in social networks right now is between Google + and everything else. Google is not making the sharing easy so it is probably the least integrated network.”
Peg Fitzpatrick - http://twitter.com/pegfitzpatrick
"I feel that Google+ and Pinterest are a powerful combination. They are both very visual networks with savvy users. Photographers are really killing it on both platforms such as Trey Ratcliff, with 4.5 million Google+ followers and 4.7 million followers on Pinterest, that’s an enviable social media network! Google+ and Pinterest, more than other platforms, really reward their power users with engagement and activity with their content. You can save your Google+ posts on Pinterest boards or find interesting things to post on Google+ from Pinterest. Both platforms support hashtag usage and using keywords is a benefit. Google+ and Pinterest complement each other and add mutual value without distracting or overwhelming the other.
I feel like LinkedIn and every other network are disconnected. LinkedIn doesn’t seem to fit naturally with any of the other networks although they have taken strides towards improvement. The endorsement feature made LinkedIn spammy to me and weakened the recommendations, which I felt was their most valuable asset. I feel that LinkedIn has its place for job seekers and networking but I don’t see how it blends with Pinterest, Facebook or any other site. I think that this was their intention but they shot themselves in the foot with that plan. You need to have a presence on more than one social media platform so if you are on multiple platforms, you’d like to work them seamlessly together.”
Don Power - http://twitter.com/donpower
"LinkedIn and Twitter work beautifully together for me. I use LinkedIn to get comprehensive background info and details about individuals and their histories and companies before connecting with them on Twitter. Or, you may be connected with a person at Company X on Twitter - you can use LinkedIn to find more people at Company X to connect with (including their Twitter backgrounds). I use them in tandem quite a bit but for me - all roads ultimately lead to Twitter - if I make a connection on LinkedIn, I’m always suggesting that we continue the conversation on Twitter.
Facebook and Twitter - two almost completely exclusive sets of users (in my opinion and personal experience). For example, almost all of my high school friends are on Facebook (I graduated high school in ‘86) but NONE of them are on Twitter. Most of the people I’m connected with on Facebook are not active on Twitter. I only use Facebook to respond to people who find me or reach out to me there. I don’t start conversations on Facebook and 99.9% of my posts on Facebook (unless I’m responding to a specific tagged post) are simply copies of what I post to Twitter (and no - I don’t care that my Facebook posts are often marked up with @ symbols and hashtags)
As I see it, albeit an oversimplification, Facebook is made up of 90% of the people who want to be social 90% of the time. Twitter is made up of 90% of social people who want to do social business communication (in a no sales-y way) 90% of the time. Facebook is 90% wasting time and sharing crap, Twitter is 90% time connecting with people and building networks where the underlying assumption is - how might I be able to leverage this connection, now or in the future, for a business purpose? Because those networks have two completely different modus operandi, they are a total disconnect for me.”
Susie Parker - http://twitter.com/susie_parker
"I often see how well Facebook and YouTube can work well together. Facebook being the largest social network and YouTube being the second largest search engine makes it easy to share a powerful, compelling, funny, or moving video with a large network of people with one click.
There is so much potential with Foursquare and Twitter. But there is too much disconnect and not enough businesses have claimed their locations to maximize the benefit to their businesses. When sharing where you are on Foursquare it would be great to have better Twitter integration to connect better with a potential new place to experience.”
David Christopher - http://twitter.com/davidchris
"Twitter I find great as a tool to build new relationships and to start conversations that continue on other platforms. It also allows you to connect with your network and keep those important relationships alive in just 140 characters when in today’s busy business world you don’t have time for much more.
Google+ for is the opposite. It’s where conversations continue and evolve (especially with the recent release of Google+ Communities) and for those where the need for much deeper level relationships are important. What I find interesting is that of the Twitter users in my network, very few of them use Google+. For this reason I find they complement each other as they don’t compete against each other for market share.
As for networks that have major disconnects, I’m going to give you a response that maybe you weren’t expecting here. External Social Networks and Enterprise Social Networks. There is a big disconnect between the Enterprise Social Network (behind the firewall) and the External Social Network (beyond the firewall). This isn’t a technology response, but a cultural response. Employees are your companies Brand ambassadors and should be leveraged as such but fear of what they might say prevents this. This is creating a disconnect in consistent messaging and preventing engagement opportunities with your customers.”
Sam Fiorella - http://twitter.com/samfiorella
"Google+ and YouTube are natural partners and work together for the brand’s benefit on many levels. Google+ Hangouts upload directly to a YouTube channel for one-click cross-network sharing. Further, with Google Authorship, the combo packs a great SEO/SEM punch. There’s little-to-no expertise required to create conversational videos with customers, vendors, the media or others and best of all, the platforms are free!
When talking about disconnected networks, I believe those are Pinterest and YouTube. Each are successful in their own right and each is a visual medium. Pinterest is great at sharing with Facebook but doesn’t accept other forms of visual content from other networks well. I see great opportunities for individuals and business if Pinterest would allow the inclusion of videos onto their boards, it would make for a richer experience.”
As for me? I believe that Facebook and Instagram are a very powerful combination. The ease with which you can insert creative, timely images in to your Facebook timeline, and the ease with which users can interact, share, and comment on this activity make them a natural fit for both personal use and for showcasing the personality of a brand.
Where I fail to see much synergy is between Pinterest and Twitter. Much in the same way that the absence of Instagram image support within Twitter has hurt the synergy between them, I feel that it is a crucial missing element that Pinterest should be working towards achieving. Being able to see a pin from within Twitter without the need to click would add a lot of utility, enabling users to view and re-share Tweeted content from Pinterest in one step instead of multiple steps in two different apps.
As you can clearly see, there is no definitive, all-encompassing answer to the question, which appears to be the general nature of social media to begin with. Everyone does it differently, and that’s ok. Ultimately it comes down to your personal ‘taste’ when choosing the social networks that work best for you.
What do you think? Are there two networks that consistently create business magic for you? Or are there two that don’t jive for you at all? Let’s hear!
Ever get a phone call from someone claiming to be from XYZ Digital Web Services who’s been researching your company’s website on Google and noticed that it isn’t on page 1 for important keywords? Then they’ll kindly tell you that they can help get you ranked on the first page of all major search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal, right? After all, it’s a lot of work to get on page 1 of Google. You’re competing with all the really big sites for those top spots, and it’s a real tough fight!
There’s just one problem: They get you there by flooding the internet with garbage. It’s called ‘Black Hat SEO’, and it is the scourge of internet marketers worldwide. It relies entirely on exploiting search engine algorithms for their loopholes and selling these tricks as legitimate services to unsuspecting companies.
For example, let’s look at one of the most common exploits employed by these scammers: Backlinks. Most seasoned SEO pros will tell you of the importance of backlinks. These are links found on other sites that point back to yours. In a nutshell, the more backlinks you have, the better. The quality of those backlinks is the second half of the equation. Backlinks to your site that are found on popular, relevant websites are worth far more in the eyes of search engines than those found on sites that have nothing to do with your company or industry.
However, these SEO magicians that claim to boost you to page 1 on Google simply ignore the ‘quality’ side of the equation and just go after ‘quantity’. They employ their armies to scour the internet for any blog or website that allows comments to be posted, and randomly post gibberish text containing links to your site. These poor victim sites and blogs end up with junk comments piling up on their posts, with little else they can do but manually delete each one. Often times they slip by unnoticed, perpetuating the problem for everyone.
There are a few telltale signs that comments are being posted by a link farmer. Often riddled with horrifying grammar and spelling mistakes, within each comment there will inevitably be a backlink embedded in to the text of the comment so that it doesn’t immediately get caught at a glance. You actually need to read it to be sure of what it is. Once you do, you’ll notice how completely irrelevant they are to the content of the original post.
Fortunately, Google and other search engines aren’t just sitting on their hands. They don’t want their systems gamed any more than we do, so they’re constantly tweaking their algorithms to close loopholes and make results increasingly more ‘real’ based on what you’re looking for.
Often times what happens with companies who fall victim to link farmers and Black Hat SEO will notice a massive drop in their rankings whenever Google releases a new major update to their algorithms. This is because whenever those exploits and loopholes get closed, Google slams the door really hard on sites that have been gaming the system.
Here’s the thing about SEO: No matter what detailed changes occur in their algorithms, search engines will always reward websites that:
If you cover those three bases, then you shouldn’t see any drastic swings when an SEO update occurs. There’s no magic bullet for SEO. It’s a long term investment, and rewards those who focus on quality, above all else. So the next time you get a call from someone promising magical SEO results guaranteed to push you to #1 – Politely say “Thanks, but no thanks”.
But we can each do our part to help minimize the problem:
Black Hat SEO and link farming sucks for everyone. Customers hate it because there’s no guarantee that the companies on page 1 of Google actually deserve to be there. Companies hate it because even if they are the most relevant company for the keywords, they can be bumped down on the list of results because of sites who game the system. Unsuspecting companies who do hire link farmers take a major reputation hit when they get found out, and when algorithm changes cause their rankings to plummet. It’s just bad news all around. I hope this post sheds a bit of light on how link farmers operate, and why you should avoid it like the plague. If this post saves at least one good company from getting involved with the ‘bad crowd’, it’ll all be worth it.
This article originally written for http://crowdshifter.com
Monday night saw one of the greatest examples of brilliant branding combining with TV product placement and social interaction. The iconic Canadian brand Tim Hortons appeared on How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM) as part of a long-running gag on the show, and the results are tremendous.
It’s an elaborate story, but it all comes together in the end, trust me.
Tim Hortons has appeared before on the show. One of the characters, Robin, played by real-life-Canadian Cobie Smulders, is a Canadian living in New York who spent her teenage years in Canada as one of it’s biggest pop stars, Robin Sparkles.
In this particular episode, her fiancee Barney, played by the brilliant Neil Patrick Harris, travels to Canada in hopes of discovering a terrible secret from Robins past, which he attempts to uncover while interrogating her ex-boyfriends at a Tim Hortons coffee shop.
At this time it’s revealed that the entire story of Robin Sparkles’ dark past can be learned by watching an episode of ‘Underneath the Tunes’ from MuchMusic, Canada’s answers to ‘Behind the Music’ and MTV, respectively. After obtaining a copy of the show, Barney and the remaining friends watch it, uncovering more details including the epic fall from stardom when Sparkles becomes an obsessed stalker and changes from pop princess to angry grunge rocker.
'Underneath the Tunes' also features a slew of cameos from famous Canadian stars of all types, from Rush frontman Geddy Lee, to 90210 star Jason Priestly, and Full House comedian Dave Coulier. All of them reminisce about the fall of Robin Sparkles, and Steven Page from the band Barenaked Ladies makes the powerful statement that:
"To this day, you ask any Canadian where they were when Robin Sparkles lost it, not only can they tell you which Tim Hortons they were in, but what donut they were eating. Me? Wawa, Ontario. Blueberry Fritter."
We then hear from each cameo star, from Alex Trebek to Luc Robitaille, their Tim’s location and donut. By far the most memorable was Jason Priestley, who was so distraught that he:
"Crammed a Timbit in to a Strawberry Vanilla and invented ‘The Priestley’. Should’ve been the best day of my life."
Now, this in and of itself was easily enough to get people fired up and talking about the show on Twitter, with #himym and #robinsparkles hashtags trending, as well as people posting their own #robinsparkles TIm Hortons & donut stories. (Yes, I did too. And for the record, it was Barrie, Ontario. Honey Cruller.)
Now for the ‘social’ part. First, they posted a clip from the show on their Facebook page with all the great Tim Horton’s references, which generated tons of comments, likes, and shares. They also got in to the conversation on Twitter, responding to mentions and talking with fans.
Here’s the link to their Facebook video: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=331151936984294
But the best part? They then posted this picture:
They actually created ‘The Priestley’. Jason himself responded with admiration, Cobie Smulders clearly wants one of her own. And fans went nuts.
Everything came together flawlessly. Tim Hortons took ownership of all the stereotypes about their brand, and of Canadians, and showed that they love to laugh about them as much as anyone else in front of a massive North American audience. The stars who made cameos had tons of fun with this appearance, I’m sure. HIMYM undoubtedly got a boost in viewership due to all the chatter and positive mentions happening.
This is a perfect example of what brands can accomplish by having a real personality, being proud of it, and HAVING FUN WITH IT.
I give Tim Hortons a perfect 5-Timbit rating for this brilliant display of being awesome.
Legen - wait for it…….dary!